Former restaurant chain CEO and radio talk show host Herman Cain is looking good in early presidential polls and enjoys strong support from the tea party. Nonetheless, conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer and former George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove both dismiss him as entertainment and unserious.
|Herman Cain: "I’m not running to become president of the establishment. I am running to become president of the people of the United States of America." (Getty Images Photo)
The 65-year-old Cain made a Memorial Day weekend swing through New Hampshire, where he dismissed much of the current GOP field as lifetime politicians. In contrast, Cain says, “I’m just myself,” The Washington Post
Whether Cain turns out to be a serious contender is unclear, and many questions remain as the tea party favorite moves forward. Can he buck the GOP establishment, is he just another quixotic candidate in the Donald Trump mode, and can he translate his appeal into votes?
Krauthammer, in an appearance on Fox News, said Cain might siphon votes away from someone such as Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., but he would not be a major factor in the race.
“I like the guy, but his candidacy is for entertainment,” he said.
Rove, also during an appearance on Fox News, referred to Cain as the “talk radio guy in Atlanta” and said he could not compare with someone such as Mike Huckabee, who has served as a governor and lieutenant governor in Arkansas.
“Everybody’s going to get excited about a great speech by Herman Cain, but at some point, [he needs] to convince people that, ‘I’ve got something in my background that gives you confidence I can actually do these things I’m talking about,’” Rove said.
Cain dismisses such comments.
“Karl Rove, I respect. Krauthammer, I have a lot of respect for — he’s one of the thoughtful conservatives out there,” Cain told The Daily Caller. “My response is . . . I’m not running to become president of the establishment. I am running to become president of the people of the United States of America. [Rove and Krauthammer] will eventually wake up and realize that I am a serious candidate for the nomination.”
Pictures of Republican rivals line a wall at Cain’s campaign headquarters in Stockbridge, Ga.
Some, such as Huckabee and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, have lines drawn through them marking them as potential candidates who opted not to run. Two former governors, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, “tend to be much more risk-averse,” Cain tells the Post, while characterizing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as someone whose “time has come and gone.”
Cain grew up outside downtown Atlanta. His father worked as a chauffeur to Robert Woodruff, the president of Coca-Cola, and received tips in the form of stocks that helped send Cain to Morehouse College in 1967 as a math major. He later earned an advanced degree from Purdue and went to work for Coca-Cola as a business analyst.
He left the company to work at Pillsbury, where he turned around Burger King’s Philadelphia region. “It is possible to screw up the Whopper,” Cain told the Post.
After that, he joined Godfather’s Pizza as CEO and president. He made the chain profitable and then bought it with investors.
Cain first entered the political arena when he challenged President Bill Clinton at a 1994 town hall event on his healthcare plan. He asked the president, “If I’m forced to do this, what will I tell those people whose jobs I will have to eliminate?”
From that point, he was off and running, joining the Dole/Kemp 1996 campaign as an adviser, working with Steve Forbes on his 2000 campaign in 2000 and running for the Senate in 2004.
A Gallup poll of GOP voters released last week put Cain in fifth place at 8 percent behind Romney at 17, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at 15, Rep. Ron Paul at 10 and Gingrich at 9. That puts him ahead of Pawlenty at 6 percent, Bachmann at 5 percent, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman at 2 percent.
However, even though Cain’s name recognition with voters remains low, Gallup found that his “Positive Intensity Score” of 27 is the highest recorded for any candidate or potential candidate this year.
Tea Party Patriots’ Mark Meckler said, “Herman generates incredible excitement. He is a lot more like us than anyone who has run for president in our lifetimes,” he told the Post. Iowa Tea Party chairman Ryan Rhodes said, “He’s not to be underestimated.”
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